Elma, NY - Owners of dogs know they can bring joy and love to us. But, now they are also bringing a wagging tail and comfort to students and staffers in the Iroquois School District. 2 On Your Side found out how they're serving a valuable role in the schools.
Another school day begins at the Iroquois district secondary schools. And it's another day on the job for Jack and Gucci. Both are therapy or comfort dogs for the school district in a completely relaxing way. High School Senior Abby Greier says "Holding Gucci it's more of like a calming sense, cause I'm talking about stressful things yet playing with a fluffy furball."
School Social Worker Tana Yount says "High school is not an easy thing. With social media and all of the testing that they're doing, prepping for college. Our kids are under so much pressure to do more and more and more. So they can take just that five minutes to pet the dog and to see her...I think it makes a world of difference for them."
And while the dogs can sit in on a counseling session that can range from discussing self-esteem, to issues with friends or even depression, it's also just that contact with a four legged friend. Colleen Edwards is also a social worker who employs her dog Jack to comfort students "I never walk in the hallway and see anybody look sad or mad. Like instantly they're smiling and they're running over and petting him."
Teachers like Rick Dombrowski , who teaches chemistry, also notices a difference in a day with a dog.
"The students...they immediately perk up. You can tell the atmosphere changes. They're just very happy when she's around. Especially with some of them, there's such test anxiety that it could definitely ease that tension a little bit."
School leaders also recognize a canine connection works. Principal Dean Ramirez cites another principal's previous example. "Had a black lab named Dora who he came and used as a means of reaching out and having kids and staff feel more at ease while being in the building."
Obviously, we've heard about dogs being used in hospitals, nursing homes, and at airports to provide comfort. Iroquois officials say they understand only a handful of other schools in the area are using them so far.